A new era of Sun Devil basketball is about to begin in Tempe. Yes, we know every article about ASU basketball starts out this way, but it really is true. For the first time since 2005, a coach not named Herb Sendek will man the bench when ASU opens its basketball season tonight.
To complete our preview of the ASU basketball season, our basketball writers give their thoughts on the ASU basketball season, including our season predictions for this ASU squad.
Ryan Bafaloukos - Co-Managing Editor
Kristina Vicario - Lead Basketball Writer
Connor Pelton - Basketball Writer
Q: What are you most looking forward to in Bobby Hurley's first season?
Vicario: I'm looking forward to the focus on tempo in the backcourt this season. This is something shooting guard Gerry Blakes said has been a focus since Hurley arrived in Tempe, and is something that seemed to translate well on the court in the exhibition game Saturday where the Sun Devils put up 102 points.
Last season under Herb Sendek, ASU struggled with tempo as a result of too many turnovers that were too often in double figures. Cleaning up this aspect would be a nice change in the 2015 season.
Pelton: I am just excited to see the change in ASU's offense. I didn't necessarily mind Herb Sendek's style, but I do think it was time for a change of pace. Hurley is definitely going to bring that up tempo, fast-paced frame of mind that a lot of fans crave, and that is what I'm most looking forward to.
His hire has already rejuvenated the program, and it should be interesting to see where it leads in his first season.
Bafaloukos: I agree with my colleagues above. I think having Bobby Hurley here creates excitement in itself. I'm also interested to see how much he improves the guards like Tra Holder, Gerry Blakes and Kodi Justice. With the way Hurley is making strides on the recruiting trail, the Sun Devils are in a great spot for future seasons. I am very interested to see what they can do this season, especially in the nonconference.
Q: What would you consider success in Hurley's first season?
Vicario: I think it would be a major success if the Sun Devils could pull off a big upset in at least two of the bigger nonconference games (i.e.Texas A&M, Kentucky, LSU, Marquette). A tough nonconference schedule is something ASU fans have not seen in previous years, and something that could definitely catch the NCAA committee's eyes.
If that happens and ASU fares well in conference play, it would be a massive success if ASU could sneak its way into the first round of the tournament, although it's unlikely in Hurley's first year and without Buffalo transfers Shannon Evans and Torian Graham eligible for the 2015 season.
Pelton: An upper half finish in the Pac-12 would be a success. It seems like there is a clear top four in this conference, and Arizona State should be competing with Utah, Oregon State, and Colorado for those last couple spots in the top six.
An NCAA Tournament bid is very possible if that happens, or at the very least, a one or two seed in the NIT. For a first year coach, that sounds like a successful campaign.
Bafaloukos: If ASU makes the tournament it would be a resounding success. While I think this team has talent and could make a run, I think it is more important for ASU to show improvement over the course of the year. One of the knocks I had against Sendek was his teams rarely improved over the course of the year.
If ASU can get to 20 wins and complete against the best teams in the conference, I think that is a successful first season. I would also love to see ASU win at least one game in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Q: Which players or players will you be especially keeping an eye on this season?
Vicario: I'm excited to see what Andre Spight does for this team in terms of catalyzing the offense by crashing the boards and forcing turnovers. Spight also has a smooth shot and could be a huge contributor along the perimeter, something especially necessary after Shaquielle McKissic's departure.
I'm also interested to see what Kodi Justice does from behind the arc this season. Before his injury last season he seemed to have a knack for hitting the threes in high pressure situations, and that's something I hope to see more of this season.
Pelton: Obinna Oleka intrigues me the most. Savon Goodman and Eric Jacobsen can't play all 40 minutes every night, and someone is going to have to step up down low when they are on the bench. Oleka could very well be that guy.
Bafaloukos: I'm really interested to see how Kodi Justice progresses this season and what his role should be. After watching him in high school, I thought Justice was more suited off the ball. It will also be interesting to see what kind of player Holder is under Hurley. I wonder if there is a sense of urgency for Holder because Shannon Evans -- Hurley's point guard at Buffalo -- followed him here and will be eligible next season.
I've heard nothing but good things about Spight and I think he contributes a good amount this season. Eric Jacobsen lost 25 pounds and looks to be in great shape and I am interested to see how he runs the floor and contributes this season. With that, I think I've named about half the team so I'll stop.
Q: What is your bold prediction for this year?
Vicario: A third straight upset over rival Arizona in Wells Fargo Arena.
Pelton: The Sun Devils end up meeting LSU in the final round of the Legends Classic, and Goodman outplays and shuts down highly touted freshman Ben Simmons.
Bafaloukos: ASU wins two games in the Pac-12 tournament before losing in the semifinals.
Q: What is ASU's final season record and where this team finishes in the conference?
Vicario: 20-14 overall, 10-8 in the Pac-12
Pelton: 17-14 overall, 8-10 in the Pac-12.
Bafaloukos: 18-13 regular season record, 10-8 in the Pac-12.